WCIA — One year since Name, Image, and Likeness legislation was signed into law in Illinois, the only thing consistent about it has been inconsistency.
“It’s really exciting because we know it’s going to change,” University of Illinois INFLUENCE Program Director Kam Cox said. “I think that’s one thing we have learned about the NIL this year, is that no one knows everything about it.”
The Illinois INFLUNCE Program helps athletes navigate NIL. Cox goes over the deals brought to him by Illini athletes.
“I think it’s also introduced a lot in terms of business and financial literacy, which is an important part to being an emerging adult,” Cox said. “That gets me really, really excited. The fact that are student athletes are able to make a little bit of money is also really, really cool.”
Athletes have taken advantage of it. Athletic Director Josh Whitman says Illini athletes have engaged in more than 400 NIL transactions, with 35% of deals being women athletes. About half of the total have been football and men’s basketball team members.
“It’s still ongoing,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “We’re still feeling our way through all that process, but it’s one that I’m excited about to see how it keeps manifesting itself.”
Underwood says he likes that his team has the opportunity to make money off their brand. For former Illini players like Kofi Cockburn, he was able to make big numbers through his name. But when it came down to it, the money wasn’t worth stopping his dream.
“I’m always betting on myself,” Cockburn said at the NBA Draft Combine. “I wouldn’t put a price on my dream. For me to go back to college knowing that I think I’m ready right now, I know that I’m ready right now, but that’d be putting a price on my dream basically.”
Looking back to one year later and how much things have changed, coaches, players and administration are staying on their toes to see what will happen next.